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English translation: software

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22:03 Mar 9, 2007
English to English translations [PRO]
Linguistics / grammar
English term or phrase: software
Would you use the indefinite article before the word software as is widely found on the net, or rather use it without an article? And, consequently, how acceptable is the form "softwares"?
Thank you.
Ara Mkrtchyan
Armenia
Local time: 05:37
English translation:software
Explanation:
If used as a noun I would never use the indefinite article.
Maybe you have seen it used as an adjective as in "a software system". In that case it would be acceptable.

As for the plural I would say no. Not in English, anyway.
Selected response from:

David Cahill
Local time: 03:37
Grading comment
Thank you
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
4 +11software
David Cahill
5 +9no article, no plural!
David Knowles
4 +5software, no indefinite article, no plural with "s"
JaneTranslates
4Electronic code produced and utilized for the purpose of performing specific tasks. Uncountable.
R. A. Stegemann
3usage is mixed
Craig Meulen


Discussion entries: 4





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +11
software


Explanation:
If used as a noun I would never use the indefinite article.
Maybe you have seen it used as an adjective as in "a software system". In that case it would be acceptable.

As for the plural I would say no. Not in English, anyway.


David Cahill
Local time: 03:37
Meets criteria
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 8
Grading comment
Thank you

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Tony M
54 mins
  -> thanks, tony

agree  Seema Ugrankar
1 hr
  -> thanks, seema

agree  Deborah Workman
1 hr
  -> thanks, deborah

agree  RHELLER: exactly - mistake commonly made by foreigners (think uncountable noun)
6 hrs
  -> thanks, rita

agree  kmtext
13 hrs
  -> thanks, km

agree  xxxcmwilliams
13 hrs
  -> thanks, cm

agree  Melzie
15 hrs
  -> thanks, melzie

agree  Cristina Santos
15 hrs
  -> thanks, cristina

agree  Elena Aleksandrova
20 hrs
  -> thanks, elena

agree  Mikhail Kropotov
1 day53 mins
  -> thanks, mikhail

agree  Sophia Finos
1 day21 hrs
  -> thanks, sophia
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7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +9
no article, no plural!


Explanation:
It's like rice or accommodation (English usage)! You can have items of software or software products but not a software or softwares. You can have programs, and that may be preferable.

David Knowles
Local time: 02:37
Meets criteria
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 40

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Ken Cox: absolutely, and program is certainly the preferred term (I often suspect the use of software as a countable noun originated from German to distinguish it from Programm).
14 mins

agree  Oliver Walter: Just so. You can have programs, modules, applications, routines, program units, executables: and they are all examples of software.
35 mins

agree  Tony M: Same problem in FR!
52 mins

agree  R-i-c-h-a-r-d
3 hrs

agree  R. A. Stegemann: Oliver's comment is particularly appropriate. Just do not forget objects, components, and directories . . . .
4 hrs

agree  kmtext
13 hrs

agree  xxxcmwilliams: definitely
13 hrs

agree  Mikhail Kropotov
1 day53 mins

agree  Sophia Finos
1 day21 hrs
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9 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +5
software, no indefinite article, no plural with "s"


Explanation:
I tend to be old school, but having just translated a book about "chinaware" and "dinnerware" and "earthenware," none of which my sources ever used with an indefinite article and which never ended in "s," I would confidently apply the same practice to "software." It is not quantifiable and therefore cannot be used with the indefinite article and should not be used in the plural with "s."

JaneTranslates
Puerto Rico
Local time: 21:37
Meets criteria
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Ken Cox: fully agree
17 mins
  -> Thank you very much, Ken, and I fully concur with your comments elsewhere. Google hits are an unreliable "authority."

agree  Tony M
50 mins
  -> Thanks very much, Tony.

agree  R. A. Stegemann: Though I disagree with Ken about Google hits being an unreliable authority, I find your analogy with other wares to be quite in order. Please take note of the one time where the plural is appropriate. // Wares!
4 hrs
  -> Thanks, Hamo. To what "one time" do you refer? And it was I, not Ken, who wrote that Google is an unreliable AUTHORITY; I stand by that. I agree with you that Google IS a reliable SOURCE OF INFORMATION.Just evaluate each hit.//Oh, I see! Right!Thnx again.

agree  Mikhail Kropotov
1 day51 mins
  -> Thank you, Mikhail.

agree  Sophia Finos
1 day21 hrs
  -> Thank you, Sophia.
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Electronic code produced and utilized for the purpose of performing specific tasks. Uncountable.


Explanation:
Language is the property of those who use it. It is for this reason that Google is a reliable source of information. Simply it is only one source among many and must be understood for what it is -- a reflection of popular usage.

For the longest time I refused to use the plural of email, because it was merely an abbreviation for the phrase electronic mail. Mail, like software, has no plural. Nevertheless, in time I have succumb to popular (Google) usage and now write emails to indicate more than one electronic email message. Simply, the term is easily understood, more efficient, and above all unique.

The terms "a software" and "softwares" are different from the above example for the simple reason that one can easily find equally good substitutes that are grammatically correct. In effect, "a software program" is "a program", so long as one knows that one is speaking about software.





R. A. Stegemann
Saudi Arabia
Local time: 10:37
Meets criteria
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 20
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12 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
usage is mixed


Explanation:
I'm sure that software is 'officially' "uncount" - so it is wrong to use the indefinite article and the plural.

Technically speaking, I think we talk about "a software program". But just as we often talk about "a coffee" when we really mean "a cup of coffee", it seems common nowadays to talk about "a software" where we really mean "a software program".

As an example, and to minimise the risk of google results for compound nouns, I tried searching for the phrase "a software for", restricting the search to UK sites (to avoid the "international errors"). There were enough hits to convince me that the usage is mixed:

http://tinyurl.com/2v5mfd


I hope that helps.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 23 hrs (2007-03-10 21:24:07 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Yes, to clarify my answer, I agree that using software as a count noun is wrong in a professional translation context.

I am, however, one of those native speakers that would be quite happy to give up a few "rules" of the English language and let it develop into the international language it is claimed to be. More English is spoken and written between non-native speakers than with native speakers, so I like to dream of a day when we can use a term or structure BECAUSE everyone understands it, and not spend our time correcting things DESPITE the fact that everyone understands them ....



    Reference: http://tinyurl.com/2v5mfd
Craig Meulen
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:37
Meets criteria
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 31

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Ken Cox: software, like equipment, is a mass noun (uncountable) and cannot take an indefinite article or a plural form. However, it is widely used by non-native speakers (and alas some natives) as though it were countable. (many translations appear on UK sites)
4 mins
  -> so actually Ken, you completely agree with what I said, if I understand your comment.

neutral  Oliver Walter: "a software program" is non-native usage, and tautological.
32 mins
  -> I'm confused - please tell me what native usage is and what isn't tautological.

neutral  Tony M: It may be mixed, but is still very much unaccepted, and as such, is not to be recommended in a professional translation context.
49 mins
  -> A valuable comment, thank you.

disagree  R. A. Stegemann: Your grammatical analogy is weak. "A software" is not to "a software program", what "a coffee" is to "a cup of coffee". Software is not a counter for programs; rather it is an adjective that describes a particular genre.
4 hrs
  -> Yes, my analogy is not watertight. And no, software is not an adjective here, I would think "software program" is a compound noun. Usage is however, usage, and "a software" is gaining acceptance, just like "a coffee".

neutral  xxxcmwilliams: although there appear to be quite a few hits on UK sites, many appear to be from non native speakers.
13 hrs
  -> Thank you. You're right.

agree  Mikhail Kropotov
1 day49 mins
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